“He struck me!”
The flash in Mayor Packard’s eye showed sympathy, but the demands of the moment were too great for him to give to those pathetic words the full significance which I suddenly suspected them to hold. As I led her tottering figure down the step and turned toward her door I said gently:
“Who was the man? Who was it that struck you?”
She answered quickly and with broken-hearted emphasis “My nephew! my sister’s son, and I had come to give him all our money. We have waited three days for him to come to us. We thought he would when he knew the bonds had been found, but he never came near, never gave us a chance to enrich him; and when I heard he was ill and saw the carriage which had come to take him away, we could not stand it another minute and so I ran out and—and he struck me! looked in my face and struck me!”
I folded her in my arms, there and then at the foot of her own doorstep, and when I felt her heart beating on mine, I whispered:
“Bless God for it! He has a hard and cruel heart, and would make no good use of this money. Live to spend it as your brother desired, to make over the old house and reinstate the old name. He would not have wished it wasted on one who must have done you cruel wrong, since he has lived so many days beside you without showing his interest in you or even acknowledging your relationship.”
“There were reasons,” she protested, gently withdrawing herself, but holding me for a minute to her side. “He has had great fortune—is a man of importance now—we did not wish to interfere with his career. It was only after the money was found that we felt he should come. We should not have asked him to take back his old name, we should simply have given him what he thought best to take and been so happy and proud to see him. He is so handsome and fortunate that we should not have begrudged it, if he had taken it all. But he struck me! he struck me! He will never get a dollar now.”
Relieved, for the natural good sense of the woman was reasserting itself, I gave her hands a squeeze and quickly ran back to where the mayor was holding the door for me.
“She is all right now,” I remarked, as I slid by him upstairs; and that was all I said. The rest must wait a more auspicious moment— the moment when he really would have time to take up the gage which Mr. Steele had thrown down to him in his final words.
I was not a witness to the parting interview between Mayor Packard and his wife; I had stolen into the nursery, for a look at the little one. I found her sleeping sweetly, with one chubby hand under her rounded cheek. Thus had she lain and thus had she slept during all those dreadful minutes, when her future hung, trembling in the balance.
A CHILD’S PLAYTHINGS